Kids with autism connect, cuddle with future service dogs: ‘I love them’
LionPaws via Facebook
A student named Max, front, and other children snuggle and play with puppies at the Lionheart School in Alpharetta, Georgia. The puppies will go on to become service dogs for war veterans and others with disabilities.
For many children with autism, social interactions with strangers can be awkward and anxiety-inducing. But if the stranger is a gentle golden retriever puppy with huge paws and a quiet snore, something remarkable happens.
Throw a puppy into the mix, and the uneasiness tends to melt away.
“It’s just amazing,” said Elizabeth Dulin, co-founder and head of the Lionheart School, which serves students with autism in Alpharetta, Georgia. “When our kids interact with the dogs, we see reduced anxiety levels. … They become calm and focused.”
One 11-year-old student named Max can quickly identify all seven of the puppies romping around the school. How can he name them so effortlessly when they look so similar? That’s easy.
“Because I love them,” Max told WXIA-TV in Atlanta.
WXIA / 11Alive.com
Max, 11, converses with anyone who will listen about a puppy in his care during a field trip to a Target store.
Lionheart is home base for a new partnership with the paws4people foundation, which trains service dogs for war veterans, disabled kids and adults. Dubbed the “LionPaws Puppy Development Center,” the fledgling program sees to it that the future service dogs help as many people as possible throughout their training.
The puppies spend the first four months of their lives at Lionheart, where they befriend the school’s 39 students. The kids hold the puppies, talk to the puppies, bathe the puppies and go on field trips with the puppies — all the while socializing the animals and preparing them for more advanced obedience training ahead.
LionPaws via Facebook - As this puppy trains to become a service dog, it will touch the lives of many humans in need.
The next stop is an inmate intervention program, where prisoners in good standing teach the puppies 125 commands and train them to open and close doors, turn lights on and off and perform other tasks. Inmates entrusted with the dogs’ training get more than a sense of purpose — they also receive recent job experience that can help them find employment when they get released.
The final phase of the dogs’ training happens at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where paws4people is based. Animal-loving students get college credit for making sure the dogs are fully prepared to go to their new homes — often with war veterans who are physically disabled or who have post-traumatic stress disorder.
LionPaws via Facebook - Getting socialized: Puppies go down a slide with Lionheart students.
paws4people has been training service dogs for 14 years. The newest segment of socialization and training for some puppies — spending time with children with autism — began in January of this year. The results so far have been “nothing short of miraculous,” said Sarah Rosenbaum, director of the LionPaws Puppy Development Center.
Rosenbaum said she’s seen non-verbal children become chatty around the puppies, and she’s seen children with motor-skill deficits get up and run to see the puppies.
“They’re just so excited, which really is such a source of pride for me,” she told TODAY.com. “The children are providing for the puppies, and the puppies are providing for the children.”
LionPaws via Facebook - The puppies get plenty of affection during the first four months of their lives at the Lionheart School.
Lionheart’s first batch of seven puppies is about to move on to the inmate intervention phase of their training, and a new pile of puppies will arrive at the school soon. Five members of the school’s staff have become certified as dog handlers, and that makes it possible for one older service dog named LANGLEY to stay at the school year-round.
Dulin, the head of the Lionheart School, said LANGLEY and the puppies have been helping students to make social and emotional connections. On field trips to Target or to a nursing home, the children often will open up and make conversation with strangers about the puppies. Or when a student is having a bad day, a furry friend can help them regain a sense of normalcy.
“A lot of our kids have difficulty regulating their emotions,” Dulin told TODAY.com. “One little girl who deals with a lot of anxiety was riding in carpool one morning, and a boy who rides with her slammed his finger in the door. This little girl started crying and she could not stop.”
The girl locked herself, wailing, inside a bathroom stall and refused to come out. A teacher knew just what to do: Launch Operation LANGLEY. She brought LANGLEY into the bathroom and sat on the floor until the girl was ready to let the dog into her space.
“About three minutes later, the teacher saw a little ‘thumbs up’ sticking out from under the stall door,” Dulin said. “LANGLEY went into the stall, calmed her down, and then the two walked to class together. And she had been inconsolable — without LANGLEY, we probably would have needed to call her parents.”
LionPaws via Facebook - Puppies take a break while playing with Lionheart students.
Research regarding the effects of companion animals on kids with autism is limited but encouraging. One study published last year revealed that children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to talk, laugh, make eye contact and show other positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs than they were in the presence of toys.
And in her 2010 paper “What a Dog Can Do: Children with Autism and Therapy Dogs in Social Interaction,” researcher Olga Solomon highlighted cases of dogs helping children to communicate and connect emotionally with others around them. As Solomon noted in her paper, “dogs lead humans elsewhere, and this elsewhere is often better than where we have been before.”
June 16, 2014 - Posted by justonemorepet | Animal or Pet Related Stories, animals, Dogs, Dogs, If Animlas Could Talk..., Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, Pets, Success Stories, We Are All God's Creatures
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Save a Life…Adopt Just One More…Pet!
Everyday we read or hear another story about pets and other animals being abandoned in record numbers while at the same time we regularly hear about crazy new rules and laws being passed limiting the amount of pets that people may have, even down to one or two… or worse yet, none.
Nobody is promoting hoarding pets or animals, but at a time when there are more pets and animals of all types being abandoned or being taken to shelters already bursting at the seams, there is nothing crazier than legislating away the ability of willing adoptive families to take in just one more pet!!
Our goal is to raise awareness and help find homes for all pets and animals that need one by helping to match them with loving families and positive situations. Our goal is also to help fight the trend of unfavorable legislation and rules in an attempt to stop unnecessary Euthenization!!
“All over the world, major universities are researching the therapeutic value of pets in our society and the number of hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and mental institutions which are employing full-time pet therapists and animals is increasing daily.” ~ Betty White, American Actress, Animal Activist, and Author of Pet Love
So if you have the room in your home and the love in your heart… Adopt Just One More Pet or consider becoming a Foster parent for pets… Also check out: Little Critter: Just One More Pet
Photos By: Marion Algier – The UCLA Shutterbug
There is always room for Just One More Pet. So if you have room in your home and room in your heart… Adopt Just One More! If you live in an area that promotes unreasonable limitations on pets… fight the good fight and help change the rules and legislation…
Save the Life of Just One More…Animal!
Recent and Seasonal Shots
As I have been fighting Cancer… A battle I am gratefully winning, my furkids have not left my side. They have been a large part of my recovery!! Ask Marion
Photos by the UCLA Shutterbug are protected by copyright, Please email at JustOneMorePet@gmail.com or find us on twitter @JustOneMorePet for permission to duplicate for commerical purposes or to purchase photos.
If you can adopt or foster just one more pet, you could be saving a life, while adding joy to your own! Our shelters are over-flowing… Please join the fight to make them all ‘NO-Kill’ facilities.
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- Smartest Dog In the World, Chaser – 60 Minutes With Anderson Cooper June 15, 2015By Marion Algier – Just One More Pet (JOMP) – Cross-Posted at AskMarion Anderson Cooper met Chaser, a dog who can identify over a thousand toys, and because of whom, scientists are now studying the brain of man’s best friend. Chaser is also the subject of a book: Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog […]justonemorepet
- Quebec bill changes animals from "property" to sentient beings and includes jail time for cruelty June 14, 2015By Tamara – Dog Heirs – Cross-Posted at JOMP Quebec, Canada – Animals will be considered “sentient beings” instead of property in a bill tabled in the Canadian province of Quebec. The legislation states that "animals are not things. They are sentient beings and have biological needs." Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis proposed the bill and […] […]justonemorepet
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If You Were Stranded On An Island…A recent national survey revealed just how much Americans love their companion animals. When respondents were asked whether they’d like to spend life stranded on a deserted island with either their spouse or their pet, over 60% said they would prefer their dog or cat for companionship!
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